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Posts Tagged ‘Whale for the Killing’

I came across lines from Farley Mowat’s Whale for the Killing (1972), which I think truly reflects the fundamental problem of our species. We think we’re not part of it all. We think we’re separate and above all the rest of the living things. And in creating this delusion, we have sequestered ourselves from the reality that is existence on this planet.

In 1967, an 80-ton fin whale became stranded in a saltwater lagoon near Burgeo, Newfoundland. She had come in on an unusually high tide.  She had been following an unusually productive herring run, and when the tide went out, she was stuck. The local people, mostly young men who had been working in Ontario during the summer and making quite a bit of money, went out on small motor boats and started shooting the whale with their rifles. Then, they ran over her back with the propeller of a boat.

Mowat did all he could to try to stop the torture, even appealing to the Canadian national media for support.  When he appealed to the national media, the locals were portrayed as barbarians, which certainly didn’t help Mowat’s standing in the community.

Because whales have not been widely exposed to terrestrial bacteria, their immune systems have not evolved to fight them. When the bacteria on the bullets hit the whale, she became infected with bacteria that her immune system simply couldn’t handle. There also wasn’t a lot of food in the lagoon, and she began to weaken.

And then she died.

Mowat was so upset with all of this. He had failed to save the life of the whale, but in his attempt to do so, he had alienated himself from Newfoundland, a place he loved deeply. He knew that he was no longer welcome.

But in his alienation, he recognized something deeper and more profound, for just as he was alienated from Newfoundland, he began to realize that this was symbolic of man’s estrangement from the planet in which he evolved.

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